US signals willingness to sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey

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US signals willingness to sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey

MADRID - The United States on Wednesday signaled a new willingness to sell upgraded F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, moving closer to fulfilling the ally's longstanding request a day after Turkey dropped its opposition to efforts by Finland and Sweden to join the NATO alliance. Senior American officials had said hours earlier that President Biden did not bargain with Turkey in exchange for its support for the expansion of NATO. A senior administration official told reporters late Tuesday that Turkey had not asked for the F-16 s during the negotiations. A top defence official was blunt, if imprecise, when asked by a reporter on Wednesday about the administration's support for Turkey's push for a more modern air force.

She said that efforts to help Turkey acquire advanced planes need to be worked through our contracting processes, but she said that the United States supports Turkey's modernization of its fighter fleet because that is a contribution to NATO security, and therefore American security. On Wednesday afternoon, Biden will meet Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The presidents would discuss a wide range of topics related to the mutual interests of both countries, according to officials. Ms. Wallander suggested that Turkey's request for F-16 s was likely to be a top priority. There isn't a timeline for a deal between the United States and Turkey on fighter jets, and an agreement would likely require approval from Congress. Turkey has lost support in Congress as Turkey's bilateral relations with Turkey have been under strain for a long time. Erdogan has become more authoritarian, more mercurial, and more difficult as an ally over the years, while increasing repression at home of political rivals and independent journalism.

The United States removed Turkey from participation in the newest, most advanced American fighter plane, the F-35, and introduced some sanctions. Since then, Turkey has asked to buy 40 older fighters -- the F-16 but modernized -- plus modernization kits for another 80 F-16 s. In March, after Russia invaded Ukraine, the State Department wrote to Congress, saying that the sale of the F-16 s would be in line with U.S. national security interests and would also serve NATO's long-term unity, but did not explicitly support the deal. The letter acknowledges strained relations but describes Turkey's support for and defense ties with Ukraine as an important deterrent to malign influence in the region. Before leaving for the NATO summit in Madrid this week, Mr. Erdogan said that the F-16 sale would be an important issue in his meeting with Mr. Biden. Biden has been instrumental in urging Turkey to lift its block on the NATO membership applications of Sweden and Finland, which he did on Tuesday night.